Survivor Stories


New York


I have made it my personal business for the past 21 years to know more about prisoner rape than anyone else in the world. In 1973 I was the first survivor of jailhouse rape to speak out about it in public, at a Quaker House press conference. That made me the country’s most famous jail punk, and I guess I still am. This was after having been arrested at a pray-in on the White House lawn, a protest against my government’s violence against the defenseless people of Cambodia. I was set up by a guard captain, Clinton Cobb, in DC Jail and gang-raped about sixty times over two days. God would not let me remain silent, and being a journalist by profession, I forced myself to deal with it. Then I spent a week in the Veteran’s Hospital-I’m a Navy vet, and my dad skippered a ship right here out of Boston-getting my rectum sewn up. From then on I learned and I lectured about jailhouse rape, starting with testimony to the DC City Council and continuing to this day.

I’ve been formally trained as a male rape crisis counselor and have co-chaired a men’s counselors group; I headed the committee on male survivors of the New York City government’s Task Force Against Sexual Assault, and I’ve been an officer of SPR since 1984, president for six years. Correcting another Globe error, it was I who wrote the Prisoner Rape Education Project, the first published practical information and advice on prisoner rape. I wrote the articles on male rape and on prisons for the 2-volume Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. I’ve lectured on the subject at Columbia University, where I did my undergraduate and graduate work, New York University Law School, Fordham University Law School, and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. I wrote the SPR amicus brief for the Supreme Court of the United States, edited and signed by attorney Frank Dunbaugh, a member of the Supreme Court bar, and it is now required reading in two law schools and was cited in US Law Week.

But what really qualifies me to speak with authority is my five years behind bars, most of it as a federal prisoner, convicted of a crime (for the first and, so far, last time) in 1980, “assault with intent to commit murder” in the emergency room of the Bronx Veterans hospital. That, dear Public Safety Committee, is what then-untreated Rape Trauma Syndrome led this onetime pacifist into; note it well. As a prisoner who is inescapably tagged as a jail punk wherever I’m held, I’ve been raped in eight different institutions, I’ve lived the life of a jail punk, I’ve spent over a year in so-called “protective custody”, I’ve spent years “hooked up” in protective pair relationships, even belonged to a small gang. I’ve seen it all from the inside, I know how the system really works, and I’m not misled by official gobbbledegook. That is what really makes me an authority.

I’ve been harassed by lieutenants who think every punk is a faggot; even got written up by one at Otisville and put in the Hole, charged with “disturbing the good order of the institution,” on the grounds that because of my reputation as a punk lots of guys were hitting on me. Talk about blaming the victim! Fortunately the Captain was wiser and tore up the charge, saying “Normally I consider everybody who comes up before me on a disciplinary charge automatically guilty, but in your case I’m gonna make an exception!”

It was also at Otisville where I was double-celled with another punk who was on the verge of suicide. I had to move out because a big boxer named Champ had “put a claim on” me and wanted me to move in with him. I went to the staff person who controlled cell assignments and begged him to be careful about who he moved in with that punk to take my place. I will never, ever forget watching this Counselor rub his hands with glee at the thought. He then assigned a well-known rapist to the cell. The poor punk went insane the next day and totally demolished the cell, for which the feds gave him another 5 years for destruction of federal property. That, you see, is the real world of prisons, and it has little to do with the paper world of official policies and lawyers’ briefs.


–¬†Stephen, New York